Sunday, April 05, 2009

Potomac Festival Notes

Last week I performed at the Potomac flute festival. This was my first time performing on the east coast and it was a great experience. The week before I had flown into Raleigh, NC to do a workshop and performance for the Neuse River flute circle. I met some great people there, many of whom I now consider friends.

From the time I landed on Friday night right up till the following Monday morning I was on the go. Workshop Saturday afternoon, then rushing over to the small hall to set up, then perform, a late dinner, up early the next day to give some lessons...

The workshop was on Intermediate/Advanced NAF playing and the level of the attendees, as with all workshops, varied greatly. There were some very good players and some very good flute makers.

Here are a couple photos from that workshop.

Neuse Workshop 066
In this one I'm showing how much weight my flute case can case support..

Workshop 062
Apparently I also demonstrated how to palm a basketball...

Setting up for the performance I encountered a lot of issues that I don't normally have. The internal routing of my signal path got screwed up some how and it took a while to work through that. Then my small MIDI keyboard was not recognized by my gear. Never did figure out what happened there.

Regardless, once I took the stage I put all this out of my mind and focused on the performance. Without the keyboard I was forced to rearrange my set on the fly, but as I tend to not use a fixed "set" anyway this wasn't a problem.

Performing in Raleigh, NC

After the performance a bunch of us went to The Pit for Carolina style BBQ. The master chef there is Ed Mitchell who is considered by many to be the premier chef of this style of cooking.
Drinking a toast of Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon moonshine with Ed Mitchell.

At Potomac the set up was flawless. Earlier that day I did a mock set up to find out where things had gone wrong in Raleigh and everything work exactly the way it was intended all along. The signal routing worked fine and the keyboard came online without a hitch. I always try to learn something from any problems and although I never did figure out quite what happened in Raleigh, I did learn more about how my internal routing worked and saved presets for several different configurations to use in the future.

During the performance I tried to played an equal percentage of Anasazi flutes to regular NAFs and debuted several new pieces.

The next day consisted of multiple lessons and an Anasazi workshop. The latter was interesting as everyone was at a different level of ability. Some were well along the Anasazi road, while others had just got their flute that day. A few just showed up to see what all the fuss was about. That made the workshop a challenge. Which level do you gear the class to? I tried to get a little bit of information for every level.

In between all this I manged to buy flutes from Butch Hall and Colyn Peterson. I also got a flute from Leonard McGann tuned to a major scale and played a cool double by Brent Haines.

Here is the flute I purchased from Colyn and Kitty of Woodland Voices
It's made of Port Orford cedar with Katalox and is in the key of G# (minor pentatonic).

I saw this flute with it's crow/raven design and all weekend keep going back to it. Being at the table next to Colyn and Kitty didn't help. (Big shout out of thanks to Kitty for all her help at my table while I was away giving lessons or my workshop.) At one point Jeff Ball came by and asked me to do an improv that he could film for the portal and this is the flute I picked up. Finally by Sunday morning I knew I had to have it and in fact have ordered a bass version of it.

I also got to try out a prototype of Butch Hall's Anasazi flute. He is trying to base his on the original artifacts that were dug up and so they have a much smaller bore and no notch on the proximal end. They have a very gentle, intimate sound and I asked Butch to put me on the short list for getting one. (So Butch, if you're reading this, don't forget me!)

Judging by the amount of questions I got about my stage set up I'll take a moment to go over it here. I use an Apple MacBook Pro running MOTU's Digital Performer and Reason by Propellerheads . The audio interface is a MOTU Traveler which handles all of my audio routing, including audio from the computer via FireWire.

The mic was plugged into this device and that signal was then routed to a TC Electronics Nova Delay for added delay. The output of the Nova Delay is returned to the Traveler. Then the mic/delay signal is bussed to an output to the hall's main mixing board as a stereo pair, while my "minus" tracks are bussed to another output to the board. Again a stereo pair. This allows the person running the main sound mixer to blend my tracks, which frees me up from having to do any on the fly mixing. This is a luxury, normally I have to do this myself, while on stage, performing.

The keyboard was an old M-Audio Oxygen 8. Normally I use an Axiom 25, also made by M-Audio, but it was bigger than the box that I used to ship stuff back east. This was part of the issue that I encountered in Raleigh when the keyboard wouldn't work. The Oxygen 8 is so old that my USB drivers don't recognize it and I have to go through a MIDI interface. A real pain... The newer versions of all of these keyboards work just fine with a USB cable. The are class compliant

For my performances in both Maryland and North Carolina I played flutes by J.P. Gomez, (2 flutes) Geoffrey Ellis, and Pat Haran, (a double drone flute). As back up for watered out flutes, I carried one each by Geoffrey Ellis and Scott Loomis. For Anasazi I played flutes by Geoffrey Ellis and Michael Graham Allen. Lastly I also played a Michael Graham Allen Mojave flute.

This was a really well run festival. From my perspective things went very smoothly. The Saturday afternoon concert did go a little long and forced my Anasazi workshop to start a little later, but everyone was fine with that. There were great performances from Mark Holland and Jeff Ball, and I got to finally meet Geri LittleJohn! On Sunday night I hung out with Jeff, Margo Boone, Brent Haines and his wife, Leonard McGann and others. I also met Jeff's new family dog "Hershey" and just had a nice relaxing time.

The only down side of the trip was that my sinuses were messed up the whole time I was on the east coast. I only mention this because when I told Jeff about the trouble I was having he answered, with one of the funniest things I heard while there, "Welcome to Maryland. If you don't already have allergies, you'll get them here!"

The flight home was long, going through Chicago, but from there we flew right over the Grand Canyon.

Out my window seat I could clearly see and make out the buildings on the south rim. The red deserts a stark contrast to the rich greens of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

Back home in the deserts of LA my sinus problems are behind me, but I brought back new friends, long lasting memories and the hope I can return soon.